Fresh Maps are Crucial in Urban City Centers: Here's Why

Developer Portal
Feb 1, 2022 • Last edit on Sep 20, 20226 min read

As urban populations grow and roads are more congested, it’s becoming more challenging for commuters to reach their destination. Then, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many roads closed, triggering a whole host of route changes in a short amount of time. With these continual changes, fresh map data has become even more critical for ensuring accurate trip routing.

Let’s explore how fresh maps are critical for helping users navigate urban city centers. We’ll discuss how TomTom — one of the most widely-used mapping services — helps ensure map information is up-to-date. We’ll also explore how TomTom enables developers to guide map users to their destination.

Map Data Changes Frequently

There’s always something happening in the city. Traffic congestion and scheduled road maintenance are two significant challenges to anyone trying to navigate densely-populated city centers. Plus, construction often requires adjacent road closures, and a new building is always going up somewhere. Then, just when the way seems clear, suddenly there’s a traffic accident or burst water main. It’s not all bad, though. Sometimes festivals and parades close roads so city-dwellers and visitors can come together and celebrate holidays, heroes, and diversity.

There are plenty of reasons why getting around urban areas is especially challenging. Luckily, mapping companies such as TomTom keep track of all these road closures and congestion, making this recent data available to their developers. Armed with this updated information, developers can help their users find the best routes to avoid closures and arrive at their destination safe and sound. If traffic changes, the fresh information can route users around inaccessible areas in real-time.


COVID-19 Triggered Even More Map Changes

During COVID-19, many cities began converting roadways into outdoor dining areas to cope with indoor dining restrictions to help restaurants stay in business. Some also turned roads into parkettes to encourage residents to get out for some socially-distanced exercise and fresh air. Some cities received such positive feedback about these road conversions that they’ve extended the programs even while restrictions lift.

But these changes can come and go. For example, cities in colder climates may convert streets to restaurant patios in the summer, then re-open roads to traffic in the winter when residents are unlikely to enjoy outdoor dining. The opposite happens in hotter climates when parklets atop asphalt are too hot for citizens to enjoy safely during the height of summer, but are perfect for outdoor activities during cooler months.

As great as these programs are, they pose some challenges for anyone trying to get around the city. Outdated maps may show a wide-open street while, in reality, it’s filled with diners enjoying an evening meal. And the inverse is true as well: Old maps may continue to mark street closures when patio season is long past. Fresh map data is crucial for ensuring developers guide their users around obstacles to the most open routes, even when the situation changes daily.

How to Keep Up with Map Changes

TomTom offers an integrated system to reflect map changes without delay. These updates help deal with the outrageous volume of road network changes and temporary road conditions and incidents. More than 600 million drivers use our real-time traffic data to get to their destination quickly, comfortably, and safely.

TomTom map services promise to provide the most up-to-date and accurate traffic data for applications and devices. This fresh data helps determine the best route for any journey. Plus, our developer tools enable software makers to integrate a mapping system into their applications seamlessly and efficiently.

Changing conditions affect how developers build map services. Bigger, more permanent infrastructure changes triggered by COVID-19 also help inform TomTom’s cumulative historical traffic – where drivers are bypassing previously popular roads with a return to office commuting and city planning changes, large changes are signified, which help inform the community of expected travel times, slowdowns, and other incidents.

Luckily, route planning with TomTom also includes traffic information. When developers use the Routing API, the routing information provides directions for cars, trucks, and electric vehicles, enhanced with historical real-time traffic and incident information.

When integrating mapping services into their applications, developers must consider several aspects of their maps to make them the most functional, accurate, and enjoyable to use. Let’s look at some things you’ll want to consider when you integrate mapping services into your application.

Display Vital Information

Maps need to show temporary restrictions and closures. One of the most efficient ways to reduce traffic congestion is to inform drivers of potential road blockages before they occur. Then, these drivers can find a new route quickly.

Instead of developers integrating traffic services from scratch, they can use the TomTom Road Event Reporter. This new, free service is available for cities, road authorities, and others seeking to reduce road congestion. We designed Road Event Reporter to provide adequate information on roadwork or stoppages to millions of digital map users.

Include Accurate Routing

Routing is one of the most vital aspects of map integration that developers need to consider. After all, no application maker wants to give users directions they can’t follow due to new route restrictions or road closures.

The TomTom Routing API helps developers integrate mapping services into their applications seamlessly. This routing information then provides directions for cars, trucks, and electric vehicles, enhanced with real-time traffic and incidents information.

Highlight Points of Interest

While these temporary parkettes and patios can be challenging for motorists, some urban dwellers and visitors actively seek out these new spaces. Developers can provide up-to-date information, so visitors know these points of interest are active before they set out. After all, nobody wants to dress up for that popular new restaurant on a warm fall evening only to discover the temporary patio is full of cars again.

Through TomTom’s partnership with Foursquare, developers can also highlight information such as opening times, reviews, and ratings, so users can easily learn more about each destination.

Developers must frequently refresh their application’s data to ensure accurate maps and routing, especially in city centers. This fresh information ensures users can find the venues they seek and know in advance if the point of interest is operational.

Consider User Experience

Don’t overlook the user experience. It’s very important when you’re integrating maps. Because mapping services work around updating fresh data almost every time, developers need to ensure the map will fulfill users’ needs and that it’s usable.

There should be a synergy between the data being displayed to the user and what the user really needs. Make sure map functionalities are easy to navigate. Asking for user feedback can be helpful, too, so you can make changes that make it easier for your users to consult the map.

For optimal user experience, consider how your maps look. You can easily style TomTom maps to suit your users’ needs and complement your application’s look by switching to night mode, changing the road color, customizing markers and vehicle icons, removing landmark labels, and more.


Changes to urban centers are likely to continue, and they’re accompanied by the usual road congestion, construction, festivals, and other road-limiting events. Because of this, developers need to think about how they can update their maps continually with the most up-to-date information.

TomTom helps developers find recent map data to aid map displays, routing, and points of interest. With this timely data, urban residents and visitors can enjoy the best possible user experience as accurate maps efficiently get them to their destination. To learn how TomTom can enhance your urban-focused application, start building with TomTom maps today.

Get the developer

No marketing fuff. Tech content only.
Thanks for contacting us

We will reach out to you soon.
Blog cards
tomtom tech news